death tending his flowers hugo simberg

Life and death on the social web

Benjamin Franklin certainly made a point when he said “‘In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” With the help of a good accountant, tax can certainly be mitigated. But death, now that’s a different matter altogether.

The reason I got to thinking such gloomy thoughts was an article I was writing about LinkedIn which referenced the number of UK professionals who had an account on the network. Did you know there are over 15 million of us, that’s a quarter of the entire population of the whole country.

I realised as I was writing that it’s certainly within the realms of possibility that in the not too distant future (just a couple of years at this rate), we’ll have more UK accounts on LinkedIn than there are people who are actually alive in the country. This means of course that some of those people will have died.

My own experience of this potential problem has been exacerbated by the deaths in recent years of a networking colleague and a relative. The former had agreed with her husband that her Facebook account would be removed after a few months. The latter had no such agreement in place and her account remains active on the network.

I don’t know how anyone else in the family feels about it, but part of me feels it’s a bit macabre spotting the ‘conversations’ of others with someone who is no longer able to respond. At the time I wanted to remove myself from the friend list but worried it would be hurtful to the rest of the family, so I was stuck in a virtual no man’s land which meant I curtailed my personal use of that particular network significantly to avoid seeing the updates. As it happens, since then I have closed the account altogether so it’s no longer an issue. However, I am still a user of other social networks and at some point the same problem may arise and again I’ll have to decide what to do about it.

I suppose the questions we need to ask are things like ‘should there be any measures in place for the removal of ‘dead (pun intended) accounts’? If so, how should they be applied, and under whose jurisdiction? Or is this something we each need to think about, take responsibility for, and make the necessary arrangements for within our estate and its future management?

I don’t claim to have a definitive answer but my personal preference is to do what my networking buddy did and agree on a date at which all accounts will be removed. What do you think you’ll do? Have you even thought about it?

Please note: This post originally appeared on my LinkedIn account on 10th April 2014.

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